On the day Charnice Milton would have turned 30, a group of community partners gathered at We Act Radio in Southeast to announce crowd funding efforts to help renovate a bookstore named in the slain journalist’s honor.
It’s the only bookstore east of the Anacostia River and Milton’s family, friends and former colleagues said that makes for a fitting tribute because she’d always been an avid reader.
“This is a tremendous recognition of a great young woman’s life whose commitment to God and community rises above even the most hostile acts of mankind,” said Milton’s father, Kenneth McClendon, of the nonprofit Open House Close Case, Inc.
“This is a sincerely special way to offer her name as testament to the power of reading and the hope of reviving a community,” McClendon said.
The talented journalist had been on an assignment two years ago covering a community event the night someone on a motorbike shot and killed her.
Milton wasn’t the target and, reports indicated that the intended individual used her as a human shield. No one has ever been arrested in the case but Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Anthony Haythe noted that the case was still very much open and the manhunt continues for the assailant.
“To have a detective call and say she’d been shot, I was stunned,” said Andrew Lightman, Milton’s editor and mentor at Capital Community News.
“The one thing that I thought was important to me when she died was that people in our profession understood that we lost one of our own,” he said. “She worked very hard and she had to overcome being shy among other things.”
Organizers of the GoFundMe effort picked June 19 because it’s also known as Juneteenth, an African-American holiday that observes the freeing of the last slaves two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Those slaves, who could not read, were held in bondage longer because they were not made aware of their new status when the news appeared in the papers.
Thousands of books have already been donated to the bookstore by the community for the #WeLuvBooks campaign.
“Our community partners believe that in order to get tough on crime, we need to get tough on literacy,” organizer EL Jennings-Maldonado said in a news release. “D.C.’s illiteracy rate is higher than the national average and EOTR average is higher than the citywide average.”
Third-grade reading scores have often been used to determine prison population projections, so there is a clear correlation between literacy and violence, Jennings-Maldonado said.
“Therefore, we seek the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, D.C. Police Union and the MPD to endorse this campaign and encourage their members to donate in honor of an unsolved murder victim that needs the community to come forward to solve the case,” he said. “We also seek the support of Douglass Development to create a literacy and gun violence mural in honor of Charnice Milton at Good Hope and MLK Avenue SE. We also seek to have Charnice’s name officially added to the list of slain journalists.”